Presented on Sunday, November 30 at Cowles Hall on the Elmira College Campus. Ben Griffin studied literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and received his doctorate at Cambridge University. Since 2005, he has been an editor at the Mark Twain Project where his editorial credits include the three volumes of Mark Twain’s Autobiography as well as A Family Sketch.
This 179th birthday lecture will feature insights from a new publication, A Family Sketch and Other Private Writings (November 2014). The volume includes, for the first time in full, two of the most revealing of Mark Twain’s private writings. Here he turns his mind to the daily life he shared with his wife, Livy; their three daughters; a great many servants; and an imposing array of pets. These first-hand accounts display this gifted and loving family in the period of its flourishing. Mark Twain began to write the first piece included in the volume, “A Family Sketch,” in response to the early death of his eldest daughter, Susy, but the manuscript grew under his hands to become an exuberant account of the entire household. His record of the childrens’ sayings—“Small Foolishnesses”—is next, followed by the related manuscript “At the Farm” (Quarry Farm in Elmira, NY). Also included are selections from Livy’s 1885 diary and an authoritative edition of Susy’s biography of her father, written when she was a teenager. Newly edited from the original manuscripts by Ben Griffin, this anthology is a unique record of a fascinating family.